This Saturday, virtuoso Alexei Tartakovski MUS ’15 will return to campus to perform at the Slavic Music Matinee organized by the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures.

For several years, Alexei Tartakovski studied at the Yale School of Music under celebrated Russian pianist and current head of the piano department Boris Berman. Since he graduated from Yale, Tartakovski has won a flurry of international awards for his musicianship, delivered performances at several prestigious venues around the world, including as Carnegie Hall, and garnered praise from several critics.

From 2 to 4 p.m., he will deliver a solo piano recital at Sudler Hall, playing a series of compositions such as Stravinsky’s “Petrushka,” Chopin’s Ballade No. 4, Brahms’ Six Pieces for Piano Op. 118 and Rachmaninoff’s Morceaux de Fantaisie Op. 3.

“The Stravinsky is incredibly technically difficult,” Tartakovski said. “The Brahms is a new piece for me, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Tartakovski said there are significant stylistic contrasts within the pieces he has chosen to play. Julia Titus, senior lector in Russian at the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures and a co-organizer of the event, noted that the selection offers geographic and temporal diversity while remaining true to the Slavic classical tradition.

Krystyna Illakowicz, senior lector in Polish at the Slavic Languages and Literatures Department and also a co-organizer of the event, pointed out the importance of the Chopin pieces in the selection.

“For every pianist, Chopin is a special challenge because Chopin … can be very melodic but it becomes, sometimes, very difficult,” she said. “Chopin is not very often heard on the air at Yale. I’m happy that it’s happening.”

In 2015, Tartakovski was a semifinalist at the prestigious Chopin International Competition in Warsaw, in which participants competed by playing different works by Chopin.

Tartakovski was born in Russia but grew up in the United States. According to Titus, the Slavic classical school of music influenced him because his first music teacher was Russian.

“The Russian school emphasizes not only technical excellence but also … musicality and sensitivity in playing,” Titus said, noting that Tartakovski’s musicianship exhibits those qualities.

The Slavic Music Matinee is only one of several recent and upcoming events organized by the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures. Past events have included film screenings, theater performances and arts conferences.

Both Titus and Illakowicz emphasized the importance of celebrating and showcasing Slavic culture on campus.

“We feel that students should always see all parts of the country of the language they want to take. … It makes the experience much more rich,” Titus said.

Illakowicz also said it was important to spread awareness about diverse cultures on campus in order to counter stereotypes about them. She added that the role of the university is to provide students with “learning” and “wisdom” and that art can be used to gain both.

Claire Kalikman ’21, who plans to attend the event, expressed enthusiasm at being able to learn Russian at Yale and also gain insights into Russian and Slavic culture.

“I plan on studying abroad [in Russia] this summer, and I’m excited to go to cultural events so that, when I’m there, I won’t just be able to speak the language but will also understand the context,” she said.

Titus and Illakowicz emphasized that the concert would provide the unique experience of listening to live music surrounded by fellow audience members. They also said they would encourage even those with little insight into Slavic music and culture to attend the concert.

“I haven’t met a person who wasn’t moved by Chopin or Rachmaninoff,” Titus said. “Even if you know nothing about classical music, you should come and enjoy. … It’s just beautiful music.”

The event is sponsored by the European Studies Council at the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale.

Saumya Malhotra |